Difficult to express my thoughts today. I became intrigued by the biography of Caesar and spent December writing the ten-episode “Alas, The Republic” mini-series. While the series is about the history of the Roman Republic; it was intended as historical allegory for America’s development. I had intended to make the point that our political system had evolved through stages from “Design”, to “Ascent”, to “Enriched”, to “Divided”, and then to “Corrupted”. By the time I finished, events overtook my writing, and we had clearly devolved to the next allegorical chapter of the republic’s history – “The Republic Assaulted”.
We have had great historic political convulsions – the Civil War; Reconstruction; the KKK; the Labor Wars; the Great Depression; World War Two; the Cold War; Civil Rights; Assassinations; Vietnam; Watergate; Energy Crises; Iran/Hostage Crisis; 9/11; Iraq and Afghanistan; the 2009 Financial Collapse.
But this one is different. I never in my life felt like our leaders held outright antipathy toward our nation’s Constitutional principles; felt loyalty toward our enemies over ourselves; felt contempt for the government’s lawful administration. I never thought of our country as a fractured, struggling, corrupted democracy; this was for other parts of the world – Mexico; Central or South America; Asia. I never felt like our President looked at the voting public as a large group of consumers to be manipulated by voluminous, outrageous lying as a matter of course. I was always confident that our institutions were stable; that new leaders would expose our flaws, and they would be addressed; that our path, often slow, would not regress.
We have survived the grotesque Constitutional drama of the past four years, beginning with encouragement of foreign interference in our elections; ending with a riotous mob encouraged to assault our final, ministerial presidential electoral process. While I do not think our government could ever be overthrown by a mob, the cooperation of our political leadership, who participated in the effort, is a different matter. Could the electoral college vote count have been so obstructed, with continuing objections and delays, as to produce no clear winner by January 20th, as was the clear objective of the President, of his mob, of his supporters in the government? Could our Vice-President, our Speaker of the House, second and third in the line of succession, have been assassinated? Could such events have led to an irresolvable Constitutional conflict? What then?
I hope the lesson from this experience lasts, and that we make a serious effort to study and harden our election processes against abuse, and to insure open and unobstructed participation in the voting process. And we had better take a hard look at the funding and organization of the broad campaign of disinformation, lies and conspiracy theories that spurred this revolt, addictive electronic chatter building for years, and continuing, like a cancer, taking possession of the the conservative media, and the minds of nearly half our population, engulfing one of our major political parties, its leaders continuing to repeat these lies, ideological captives of myths they themselves created. And we had better do something about it; because this is now an established, well financed, and proven path to power for those possessing ambition in inverse proportion to their integrity, planning already to capture Trump’s base of deluded supporters.
With typical perversion of the facts, repeated ad infinitum, the militarization of the Biden inauguration, made necessary by the Republican-inspired attack of January 6th, are already being peddled widely on conservative media as conspiratorial evidence of a stolen election – why the need for the military if Biden was legitimately elected?. Another repeating assertion is that prosecution of the January 6 rioters is being pursued by “far left” Democrats as a means to politically undermine the Trump base; an astounding, if unwitting acknowledgement that the riotous mob is, in fact, the Trump – and the Republican Party – base.
There are many ways to organize a society; democracy is just one of them. Our political system needs to be managed with care; there is no perfect design for democracy; there is no autopilot; no system impervious to abuse; it is not a machine; it relies on the dedication of its participants to its principles. As tempting as it is to avoid further exposure to Donald Trump’s rants, it is critical to our system of government that we fully investigate and draw informed conclusions about his offenses lest his abuses become precedent for future malign actors, and then construct defenses against them. Those that have abused our system must be driven from our governing ranks, whether through impeachment, banishment, expulsion, prosecution, censure or defeat at the polls, depending on their degree of complicity. As for the Republicans generally, their antipathy toward our Constitution – and the truth – has become habitual. If they do not wish to live in a democracy, there are a variety of alternatives available to them; they can bring their White, Christian, Nationalist, Racist, Libertarian political fantasies with them, and leave their citizenship behind.
I especially hope the lesson has sunk in with Mitch McConnell, who did so much to accommodate the impulses of a psychopathic President, and who on January 6th barely escaped the mob rushing to the Senate floor, by seconds, mere footsteps, followed by a Secret Service agent, rushing him to a safe room, wielding a fully loaded M-16. McConnell owes an obligation to our republic, not just himself, consistent with his sworn oath; our system requires he follow those principles, or they will be consumed by the grand machinery of money and politics.
For now, we have an opportunity to try again. Biden makes me think of FDR, tempered by personal tragedy, made stronger, then sacrificing his health, determined to carry our nation through challenges that seem almost overwhelming. My hope for President Biden is that he can do it; I think he has been pitch perfect in his public announcements since the election; he has enormous experience in Congress; in the Executive; in foreign and domestic policy. I think by his nature he is the right person, at the right time. The opportunity he has can be measured by the scale of the challenges he faces. May God help him.